Facebook Picks on South Dakotan for Lakota Name
I’m a bit of a Facebook junkie. It would be easy to blame Mousehunt, an oddly addictive little game cooked up by a small Canadian company (there’s always a Canadian to blame, isn’t there?) Alas, I was drawn to Facebook long before Mousehunt came along, and if all the Facebook games dropped off the planet tomorrow, I’d still use it everyday.
Facebook has a fair amount of redeeming value — beyond providing a socially-acceptable form of stalking, which is what my wife likes to use it for (“you’ll never guess which of our former classmates just got married/had a kid/got divorced!”). Though that’s a big draw, Facebook is also a nice way to find people with similar interests. Take the Black Hills fan page, which now has almost 5,000 fans who are uploading vacation photos, talking about hiking spots and trading travel tips.
And as you poke around Facebook, you’ll inevitably find fellow users who seem a bit… dubious. Despite Facebook’s strong “real names-only” policy, Bart Simpsons, Santa Clauses and Donald Ducks abound. Case in point: I’m still friends with a fuzzy bovine named HP Cow II, who asked to join my friends list a couple years back. I’m pretty sure he’s the creation of a couple frat buddies from college, but then again, cows have been known to be pretty articulate. And bipedal.
That’s why I was a bit surprised to read this article about Facebook cracking down on suspicious-looking names. Though my buddy HP Cow II has gone under the radar (at least so far – sorry if I’m outing you by writing this post, little bovine buddy), Robin Kills The Enemy didn’t. Facebook recently flagged her account and cut her loose based on their real-name policy.The problem is that Kills The Enemy is an actual last name, and not at all uncommon among people of Lakota (and other Native American) ancestry. Growing up in the Black Hills, I went to school with kids who had similar last names, and being friends with the “Two Bulls” or “Little White Man” families wasn’t terribly unusual.
Of course, when you don’t grow up going to school in South Dakota (or if you’ve never seen Dances With Wolves), it’s understandable that “Kills the Enemy” would raise a flag or three in somebody’s head. I’m sure the Facebook bureaucrats were only trying to do their jobs.
But what’s really rubbing people the wrong way is the way this situation was handled. Based on the Reznet article, Facebook treated Kills the Enemy with all the cold, sterile hospitality that strict procedure has to offer. And, based on comments posted to a Facebook group devoted to the issue, she’s not alone. In one case, a user with Native American ancestry and a matching surname claimed that Facebook took several weeks to even approve his account.
And then there’s the issue of all the Bart Simpsons, Don Ducks and Santa Clauses still in the system. No one seems to be picking on jolly old Saint Nick.
The story hit the Associated Press wire over the weekend and has been in several newspapers by now, so I don’t think we’ve heard the end of it. In the meantime, I think it’s a pretty remarkable indicator of just how much the culture of a region can differ from the rest of the country. We tend to think of the United States as pretty homogonized in the 21st century – but the truth is, there’s still a lot we can learn about this country (and our fellow Americans) simply by getting in the car and taking a short road trip.